Friday, December 15, 2006

Educating America

The NYT and others are noting a new report on education reform. The study, by the National Commission on Education and the Economy, identifies some real deficiencies in our educational performance, and the threat that poses to our standard of living in the future. Other nations, with lower labor costs, are doing a better job of turning out well-trained students who are likely to take the best jobs away from many Americans.

They have a dozen or so proposals, ten of which are numbered, and some of which are probably even good ideas. Unfortunately, the overall product doesn't look very promising. They have only put their executive summary on the web (they want you to buy the report), but to me it looks like a mishmash of pius hopes and wishful thinking, larded with untested (and in my opinion, mostly stupid) right-wing social engineering: abolish teacher pensions, shuffle most kids out of school after tenth grade, privatize schools, create some funky kinds of private re-education savings plans.

Moreover, there is almost no discussion of the various problems and constraints that now hobble American education, and no discussion of how we could get "there" from here. Since much of the critique of American education comes from comparing results with the rest of the world, it is strikingly odd that instead of adopting the ideas that have worked well elsewhere and here, they are proposing mostly new, untested and in many cases, distinctly peculiar, approaches.

My gut reaction: the new American education system as designed by the people who brought you the space shuttle and the international space station.